Disvillage Story 7 – Red, White, and Blue

It was that time of year again – hot during the day and cold during the night.  Michael lay on his futon in his underwear.  He was a tighty-whitey guy.  The heat and sweat had made the gathering around his legs loose and it seemed that every time he moved his underwear slid uncomfortably up his ass cheek giving him a wedgy.  He thought about getting up and doing some chores as he adjusted his underwear for the umpteenth time, but he was sad today and his body felt heavy, so heavy he could hardly move.  Some Saturdays were about staying in bed.  

Michael was micro living in the attic of an old house whose inspiration was a southern plantation. These had probably been imagined as slaves’ quarters, he mused, perhaps they had been for a nanny.  The apartment consisted of four rooms – four rooms crammed into four hundred square feet of an apartment.  Michael did his best to make poverty look fashionable and he was grateful that his occasional guests thought of his pad as cool.  However; no insulation and single pane windows (that did not always shut completely) kept the apartment freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.        

He had bought the plastic, tape, and heat gun necessary to insulate the windows.  But it was a meticulous job he wasn’t feeling up to. He thought about calling up Dulcinea and seeing if she wanted to go to yoga, but sometimes yoga (oddly enough) put him in a bad mood.  Thoughts of Dulcinea gave him a wedgy in a different direction and he rolled on his back.

Later he found his way out of bed and into a bath.  The apartment didn’t have a shower as there wasn’t room for one due to the sloping ceilings.  Most of the apartment wasn’t even useful as the ceiling sloped to 4 feet of wainscoting. He was forever bumping his head. The bath was wedged in an acute angle of wall and corner – four feet past a dormer window.  If the toilet and bath could switch places, there would have been room for him to stand showering while looking out onto treetops.    

He was a shower guy and it had been a challenge to relearn how to clean himself.  Now he had come to find a bath as a guilty pleasure.  He waited until his little plastic rubber temperature duckie reached 105 and then got in the tub.  A little porcelain pitcher and sponge helped him rain water on himself.  He had found it was a very relaxing way to get clean.

Cleaning was done. His body was scrubbed, and his hair was rinsed.  He lay lethargically in tepid water.  He found his thoughts returning to Dulcinea.  Had they really been naked together in this very tub three days ago? Why did pleasure always seem to be so temporary while this pain in his heart seemed so constant.        

Dulcinea, he mused, the town witch.  She certainly was magical.  And, she certainly had him under her spell.  It had amused him to find out that this was how she was referred to in town after they first met – the town witch.  A co-volunteer he was working with at the respite center for the homeless had been impressed by his casual conversation with Dulcinea.  “Chatting up the town witch, handsome?” he had asked.  Michael had laughed back and asked, “what makes her the town witch?”.  

As far as he could tell it had something to do with her always wearing black when she first arrived in town and the fact that her one piece of jewelry had been a necklace of quartz crystal wrapped in silver wire.  That had been enough in this town to have her “burned at the proverbial stake”. 

She was remarkably comfortable to be around, and they had found so much stuff to talk about.  One conversation flowed into the next effortlessly. They never ran out of things to say to each other and things to ask each other.  They could discuss scientific books and wonder at their meaning then revert to playful imaginings – abstracting the science, telling each other wild stories trying to make the other guess if they were true.  

One time after church Dulcinea had turned to him and told him that she had a dream a few weeks ago where she had been humming a song that she had heard in this church.  She said she had woken up singing it and had sang it for an hour until her mind had been caught up by something else.  It must have been an hour later, she said, that when she tried to remember the song again, she had completely forgotten it. She had been listening in church for the congregation to sing it again but so far they had not.  “I think maybe I never heard it here,” she confided.  “I think it must be a song from Fairy.  They don’t let you remember everything you know,” she continued.  “And even when they do let you keep a memory, it’s no guarantee they will let you have it forever,” she sighed wistfully.  

Michael loved these flights of fantasy.  He wasn’t even sure it was a lie.  Maybe she did visit Fairy.  He knew from experience that time occasionally ran different for him – faster sometimes, slower others.  Sometimes he even thought he could feel the presence of things that weren’t there – like the evil presence near the train tracks.  He had meant it playfully when he mentioned it to her at dinner when she had spoken of her dark cloud.

“On the path near the train tracks?” he had inquired.  “Why would you say that?” she had asked.  He had taken her hand reassuringly and then the waiter had arrived and they both let the moment pass – like the moment had been stolen from them by Fairy.  That night had been their first intimate night together.  And later, a bath.  It was as he was sponging water onto her back that she began to talk to him of the serial killer that the town did not have.       

She became the first person he shared with about why he was here.  That he was looking for answers about his best friend Presley.  He had died here.  It had been ruled a suicide.  He had been lying on the tracks and had been hit by a train.  Dulcinea reclined into him and reached back to stroke Michael’s hair as they lay still in the tub.  They could almost hear each other’s thoughts.  A coincidence that they should both meet?      

Much like Dulcinea, Presley was otherworldly.  And like Dulcinea, they could spend hours and hours talking and talking.  They had worked together as Mounties on the Canadian border.  They had spent a lot of time in remote areas staying in rarely used cabins as they patrolled the boundary between Canada and the US.  Presley had been perfect in so many ways.  His clothes were always ironed, and his bed was always made.  He was someone you would describe as “type A” personality. Presley could talk to anyone.  Whenever they came to a town, Presley would know everyone by the time they left.  He had a gift of gab and comradery that Michael envied.  Isolation, video games, and semi nudity had provided the perfect environment for the blooming of their bromance.  

The little apartment reminded him of the cabins that they had stayed in.  His time with Dulcinea reminded him of the times they spent together. 

Their intimacy had scared Michael even as he hungered for it and he had been terrified he was turning homosexual – maybe this is why he had never really had a connection with a woman. One night they had gotten drunk and horse play had led to caressing and kissing.  To Michael’s dismay It had grossed him out.  He had even thought he was going to vomit.  It had just seemed so – against God’s plan.  He had laughing pushed Presley away saying “well, that was a mistake.”  At the same time he said this Presley said “I love you”.   

They spent the rest of the winter coming out of the closet to each other.  Michael as a straight man and Presley as a gay one.  Presley explained that Michaels reaction to him was exactly what he experienced when he tried to be intimate with women.  Michael in turn confessed that sex with women had come easy to him and he enjoyed it tremendously, but he had never been in love. He had never enjoyed the easy way he had of being with Presley with a woman.  “I love you dude.  And I always wished for someone to love me like you do.  I wish I could love you back in the same way.”

They both agreed to put in for different partners after their winter patrol.  At the time it had seemed for the best, but Michael had always wondered if they should have found a different way.  With no role models of their own, maybe they could have explored being role models for someone else.  

They had promised to keep in touch but then Presley had found a boyfriend – of course he had.  They had lost track of each other for a few years and Michael had been surprised to find out (from someone they had both worked with) that Presley had slipped into depression and mental illness and then drugs (or maybe it was the other way around).  A year later he ran into their mutual friend again and had discovered that Presley was dead – last seen in this American town on the west coast.  

That’s why he was here. To find out what had happened to his best friend – the only person he had ever loved.  Presley had brought him here, he thought as he got out of the tub and into a towel.  Presley had brought him to Dulcinea.  It was a sudden flash of insight – his old love was introducing his new.  

Disvillage Story 2 – Lemons to Lemonade

There was a little fountain outside the office window playing a melody of nature that (thankfully) distracted from the silence of the room.  The faintest hint of incense kept his nose busy searching for it. Sometimes the fragrance was there and sometimes it wasn’t – as if his mind had made it up.  He fiddled with his hands noticing that three of his fingernails were dirty.  He hadn’t slept very well stressing about this interview and had rushed to get ready this morning.  Fiddling with his hair, he noticed that it felt funny and he wondered if he had remembered to rinse the shampoo out.  His clothes were clean, of that he was at least sure of.  Jake (his new roommate) had made sure he had washed his small assortment of clothing with detergent and in hot water.    

One month ago, he had been homeless (One month ago.  One lifetime ago. Already, he was somebody different).  He had been earning enough to eat as a street performer juggling.  But, not enough for much of anything else.  He had been sleeping under a bridge enjoying the summer outside – vaguely worried about winter.  That’s how he had met Jake.  

Jake was a puppeteer and his puppets had fascinated him.  Donny had always loved dolls but (as a child) his opportunity to play with them had been very limited.  He was shocked to come face to face with a grown man playing with them in public – dressing them up, making them tell stories, making them sing and dance…

In return Jake had been fascinated by Donny’s juggling abilities.  

Donny came by them honestly. His mother had been a fourth-generation circus performer from Czechoslovakia.  She had been teaching him since he was a little boy.  She had taught him other things as well.  Like how to pick pockets.  He hadn’t shared that with Jake and hadn’t used that talent in many years – at least not for keeps.  He enjoyed practicing and so would sometimes pick peoples pockets and then put the stuff back before they had a chance to miss them.  

He remembered all the stories she had shared with him about the old world and how they had come to the good fortune of their tract home on the end of the cul-de-sac.  She had been on tour in the United States when she had met his father.  In a whirl wind of romance, she had left the circus to become a wife and then a mother. She had been eager to leave the road and settle into a suburban life.  As a little girl she had come into a windfall of old Life magazines.  The ads had seemed like a story out of fiction.  The magazines offered a reality so different, the United States might as well have been on Mars – their reality was so different. By marrying his father, her fantasy of being an “American” had come true.    

His father was a miner. They had lived well until the mine closed when Donny was eight.  His father had gone to Alaska to look for seasonal work on a fishing ship while his parents figured out what to do next.  That had been ten years ago.  

His mother had been killed in a car accident while his father was away.  Donny had been put in foster care while they looked for his father or other close relatives.  The state hadn’t found either and he had been in foster care until he had turned eighteen. 

Eighteen had come six months ago.  Until that time, he had had three sets of foster parents.  He had never felt like a son to any of them.  He had felt like a job and duty.  He had been invited in to help pay the rent; and, he had never been allowed to forget that.   He had never been close to his last set of foster parents.  They had been strict and religious.  The foster parents before that had moved out of state and had left him to be rehomed so he had only know these latest foster parents for a year – his last year in social services.   

All of his foster parents had been a series of middle class, mid-western people who had been disapproving of a circus background and suspicions of his talents.  He had once overheard his circus abilities described as “unnatural, like witchcraft”.  

It seemed everything important about himself, he had overheard.  With his last foster parents, he had overheard them talking about what he was going to do when he turned 18.  They had been worried about how he was going to move out.  He had a little money saved from mowing lawns and knew it was enough for a bus ticket to a city large enough to have street performers.  He would juggle.  If necessary, he would steal.  He could get by and figure out a life for himself.  

Donny told his foster parents he had been in touch with some family and would be going to stay with them. They had been relieved to hear he had someplace to go and had never pressed him on the details of his lie. It had broken his heart a little more to be cared about so little.  These little heartbreaks were the worst.  It was as if pieces of him were disappearing every time someone disappointed him – making him nobody.    

One morning Jake had spied him tumbling out of the bushes on his way to the old part of town where they both did side walk shows.  Donny had emerged tousled and bed worn, maybe a little dirty.  It had been impossible to disguise what was going on – that he was homeless.  After a brief morning greeting, they walked in silence for a while as if they met each other like this every morning to stroll to work.  

“Is this where you’re sleeping?” Jake had asked him.  

“Just for a little while,” said Donny casually, trying to reassure Jake, “until I get enough money for a place”.   

They had a long talk after that while Jake pressed him for details about his age and background.  “You can’t stay under the bridge anymore.  You are going to have to stay with me until we figure you out,” Jake had told him firmly.  

And that was it.  Like a miracle Donny had gone from being lost and thrown away to having people again.  Where once he felt himself going feral – losing parts of his mind and soul that made him human and connected, the reverse was happening now.  Jake felt like family.  He was introducing him to community.  Donny started remembering things about himself.  He was remembering how to smile.  He was (slowly) remembering how to groom himself.  He was remembering how to hope, as the glimpse of a future presented its self.  He was remembering possibility and pride.      

Now he was at this interview – a possible job.  

The man he had been expecting came into the room.  “Hi, I’m Gwydion,” he said with a big smile and a friendly demeanor extending his hand to shake “but everyone calls me Gwen.  Sorry to keep you waiting.”

Donny took his hand and smiled.  Gwen was a handsome, tall, athletic man that made people feel immediately at home.  He possessed a smile that made his eyes twinkle. He had a face that should have been lined but wasn’t.   He had hair that should have shown silver but instead was chestnut brown.  He seemed older than time; and, (at the same time) newly born.  Donny relaxed under the enchanting gaze of this handsome man.    

“I’m Dominik.  But everyone calls me Donny. Thank you for taking time to meet me.”  

Disvillage Story 1 – Puppet Master

The early morning was still quite with the smallest chill.  A lingering memory of a warm night could still be sensed.  As often happened in the post dawn light, the garden spoke to him. It needed to happen now.  If he left on his mission – right now – all would go well with it.  It was a sudden flash of intuition that he knew to be correct.  If he was going to steal those rocks it would have to be… right… now.

He had noticed the rocks on his way to the old part of town where he performed his sidewalk puppet show. It was under an overpass next to a county park.  They (whomever was in charge of such things) had shorn up the soil – eroding under the bridge – with a beautiful jagged blue rock.   While some were boulders and way to large for a person to pick up, some were normal sized and portable, he needed rocks for his garden.  He was using a blue Mexican pebble to create his stone waterbed to mimic a creek.  These squarish jagged stones would provide the perfect little erratics.  Or, one could imagine them as gnome sitting stones.

As he made a mental list of how he would pull this off he realized the first thing he would need is a partner in crime.

He knocked on the fence and peeked over.  Moira (his neighbor) was sitting in lotus – meditating.

“Moira, care to go on an adventure with me this morning?” he asked.  “we have to go right now.”

Moira gathered the folds of her diaphanous robe and rose to come closer.  Standing under the fence she looked up at Jake.

“Where are we going?”

“I want to go under the overpass and take some of the blue rocks.  I need a look out.”

“We are going to go steal rocks?” asked Moira tilting her head sideways wondering if he was for real.

“I’m thinking of it more as a tax refund.  Are you in?”

“Let me grab my boots and hat.  I’ll meet you in front of your garage.”

Moira and Jake were silent as they drove.  Moira was sipping coffee enjoying the fuzziness of morning.

“Here’s the plan,” Jake interrupted, “We are going to use my wagon that I transport my puppets in to get the rocks.  We will park at the parking lot nearby in the park and put blankets in it to make it look like we are going for a picnic.  When we get to the rocks you will be the look out.  I need six to ten rocks.  I will place them under the blanket and then we will take them back.  The danger will be while I am collecting the rocks and then unloading them into the trunk.  What do you think.”

“I think this is the stupidest reason to be arrested I can think of.  I hope it doesn’t end up in the paper.”  Moira answered dryly.

Moira and Jake had been neighbors for many years.  When Moira had moved in next door, Jakes wife had been dying of cancer.  Jake had dutifully introduced himself.  Then, they really hadn’t spoken for the first year as opportunity had never presented itself.  Most of their interactions had been Moira watching Jake.  She had watched him help his wife in and out of the car in the driveway to what she assumed were trips to the doctor.  Since she didn’t really know them, it seemed like the politest thing to do would be to overt her eyes and give them some privacy. It would prove to be her constant strategy and the least she could do as her neighbors dealt with the hand fate had played them.

Moira had moved here to be employed as a yoga instructor at the nearby resort that boasted hot springs and a bathhouse.  The chance to be friends with the neighbors had come and gone as she settled into her new work and reality and proceeded to populate her life with new friends.

Then one day she came home to Jakes house overflowing with people and she knew his wife had passed away.

A month later she had brought over a casserole, gave her condolences, and stayed for a quick chat. Then a week later he had returned the pan with a peach cobbler from peaches stolen from her tree and a friendship began.  He was a good cook and they both liked to garden.

The puppets had come out a year later.  His late wife had hated them, he explained to Moira.  He had been a clown with the circus before having a family and trading in his paint and puppets for boardrooms and business.  Even after retirement he had found that entertainment was in his blood.  His sidewalk circus fulfilled the need.

With this revelation, Moira had found him a little odder and a little more interesting.

Moira’s memories retreated as they pulled into the parking lot near the overpass.  Surprisingly (considering the early hour) there were already cars parked. There were one or two people also – on the other side of the parking lot.  Jake quickly but deliberately prepared the wagon.  Once he placed the blankets in the bottom they headed up the hill to the overpass.

Jake wondered briefly about how going down a hill with a wagon full of heavy rocks with no brakes was going to work as they made their way up the hill towards their destination. He wondered what other obstacles they would encounter that he hadn’t planned for on their trip.  He decided he would think about it on the way back and hope for the best.

They reached the path under the bridge without incident or interference.  While there had been people in the parking lot, there were none yet on the bike path that went under the overpass next to the rocks.

Jake quickly loaded up his wagon.

They were on their way back (the steep hill wasn’t adversely affecting control of the wagon), when they spied the ranger coming up the road from the parking lot heading towards them. They realized that he must have been in the parking lot the whole time and they had been concentrating so hard they had not seen him.  It also occurred to them that the ranger would just miss them stealing rocks.  If he left but five minutes earlier, he would have been able to watch the progress of their perfidy on his way out.

Moira took Jakes hand. Jake looked at her noticing for the first time how pretty she looked.  The wind had caught her silver hair and flowing jacket pressing the clothing against her toned yoga body whisking her hair back into a flowing wave.

The ranger smiled at them and waved.  Moira smiled and waved back.  Jake held onto the wagon and squeezed her hand.